4 ‘Healthy’ Breakfast Foods that Mess With Your Blood Sugar

By now, most of us have gotten the message that a diet rich in sugar and simple carbs is the fast track to weight gain, obesity and diabetes. And along the way, many of us have also come to a basic understanding of what we should and shouldn’t be eating in order to maintain health. But there are a number of seemingly innocuous foods, some even marketed as ‘healthy,’ that dump tablespoons of sugar into the bloodstream, boosting metabolic mayhem and insulin resistance everyday, fooling millions of people. Here are a few common breakfast foods that mess with blood sugar – and how to side-step them:

1) Your morning corner-store smoothie.

These days, virtually every food chain has a ‘healthy’ fruit smoothie on the menu – even McDonald’s has entered the fray. But whether it comes from Starbucks, Jamba Juice, or the corner deli, almost  any smoothie you don’t make at home is a processed, fiber-free sugar bomb with a nutritional profile not all that different from a milkshake. For example:

  • a small Jamba Juice fruit smoothie will dump upwards of 30 grams of sugar into your system
  • a small strawberry McDonald’s smoothie clocks in at 39 grams
  • a Starbucks 16 oz. strawberry smoothie delivers 41 grams, roughly the same amount of sugar as a 3 Musketeers Bar


So if you’re thinking any of these is a health food because it’s made with fruit, you’re barking up the wrong candy cane.

The workaround: To keep your smoothie in the 7-gram range, blend your own, using a half-cup of low sugar berries or better yet, green veggies plus protein or greens powder and sweeten with stevia if needed.

2) Your grab ‘n’ go breakfast bar.

When you need a quick snack or meal replacement, you might grab a protein bar thinking it’s healthier than a candy bar – and you’d likely be wrong. Unfortunately, the majority of protein bars crowding the shelves at the gym or office vending machine are loaded with sugar, with many featuring 12 grams or more for a not-very-satisfying 1 or 2 oz. serving.

The workaround: A healthy DIY version. Elana’s Pantry’s recipe for no-bake, high-fiber Power Bars simply rocks. The other option is to buy a minimally processed bar made with organic, non-GMO ingredients, and no more than 5 grams of sugar (the fewer the better). Or you can enjoy a handful of nuts and seeds!

3) Your morning fruit fix.

A bowl of fruit can be wonderful. It can also be very, very sweet, so choose your ingredients wisely. Fruits like mangos, grapes and bananas, though they contain healthy fiber, still rank high on the glycemic scale and probably shouldn’t be in your everyday rotation, particularly if sweetness is your Achilles’ heel. Same holds true for sugar-packed dried fruit, fruit roll-ups, ‘squeezable’ fruit packs, juice boxes or fruit-based muffins or cakes. Though they’re misleadingly sold as ‘healthy,’ their high sugar content and minimal fiber make them anything but, so steer clear.

The workaround: When it comes to processed fruit, leave it on the shelf and enjoy a serving of low sugar, high-fiber berries instead. For added benefit, enjoy with some healthy fat, such as almond butter or coconut yogurt.

4) Your super-convenient, throw-in-your bag yogurt.

In theory, yogurt is a beautiful thing – it’s convenient, it’s creamy, it’s got protein and may even have some active probiotic cultures to boot. However, most of the commercial versions also have an astonishing amount of sugar, making that little morning go-to more junk food than health food, more dessert than breakfast. For example, a small, 6 oz serving of fruit-flavored Yoplait, Dannon, Stoneyfield and Activia can pack a sugar punch of 22-30 grams – which is a nutritionally lousy way to start the day.

The workaround: If you’re not into making your own, buy the lowest-sugar, organic, full-fat yogurt you can find, without sweeteners or fruit flavorings. Add your own low-sugar fruit and stevia if needed. Also, don’t be fooled by vanilla flavored yogurts – they’re often just as sugary as the fruit-flavored versions. Avoiding or sensitive to dairy? Try less irritating yogurts made with coconut, sheep or goat’s milk.

For a few truly healthy ideas on what to eat in the morning without spiking your blood sugar, check out these 6 Healthy Breakfast Ideas.

PIONEER IN FUNCTIONAL AND INTEGRATIVE MEDICINEFor Dr. Frank Lipman, health is more than just the absence of disease: it is a total state of physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social wellbeing. Dr. Lipman is a widely recognized trailblazer and leader in functional and integrative medicine, and he is a New York Times best-selling author of five books, How To Be Well, The New Health Rules, 10 Reasons You Feel Old and Get Fat, Revive and Total Renewal.After his initial medical training in his native South Africa, Dr. Lipman spent 18 months working at clinics in the bush. He became familiar with the local traditional healers, called sangomas, which kindled his interest in non-Western healing modalities.In 1984, Dr. Lipman immigrated to the United States, where he became the chief medical resident at Lincoln Hospital in Bronx, NY. While there, he became fascinated by the hospital’s addiction clinic, which used acupuncture and Chinese medicine to treat people suffering from heroin and crack addiction. Seeing the way these patients responded so positively to acupuncture made him even more aware of the potential of implementing non- Western medicine to promote holistic wellbeing. As a medical student, he was taught to focus on the disease rather than the patient, and now as a doctor he found himself treating symptoms rather than the root causes of illness. Frustrated by the constraints of his training, and the limitations in helping his patients regain true health, he began a journey of discovery to search for the path to meaningful long-term health and wellness.He began studying nutrition, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, herbal medicine, functional medicine, biofeedback, meditation, and yoga. Dr. Lipman founded the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in 1992, where he combines the best of Western medicine and cutting edge nutritional science with age-old healing techniques from the East. As his patient chef Seamus Mullen told The New York Times, "If antibiotics are right, he'll try it. If it's an anti-inflammatory diet, he’ll do that. He’s looking at the body as a system rather than looking at isolated things."In addition to his practice, Dr. Lipman is the creator of Be Well, an expanding lifestyle wellness brand he founded in 2010 to help people create, sustain and lead healthier lives.